After the State Department issued an alert over the weekend saying U.S. citizens could have to pay $2,000 or more for evacuation flights out of Afghanistan, a report indicated people hoping to escape are being asked to pay up.
Although U.S. officials told Politico, evacuation flights out of Kabul would be free, its national security daily newsletter reported some sources said otherwise, including one who said State Department staff were asking for up to $2,000 per U.S. citizen and more from noncitizens.
This aligns with a security alert published on the website of the Overseas Security Advisory Council, part of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, about “repatriation assistance” for U.S. citizens in Afghanistan. The bulletin published on Saturday, one day before the Taliban swept into Kabul and Hamid Karzai International Airport became a chaotic scene of crowds desperately trying to escape Kabul encouraged U.S. citizens to take advantage of commercial flights while they remained an option, offering guidance on eligibility requirements for those who sought charter flights.
One part of the alert said: “Repatriation flights are not free, and passengers will be required to sign a promissory loan agreement and may not be eligible to renew their U.S. passports until the loan is repaid. The cost may be $2,000USD or more per person.”
A separate State Department webpage, which focuses on crisis situations, also said that generally, such flights would not be free.
“In extreme situations, if there are no commercial transportation options (planes, trains, boats/ferries, etc.) available, and if we have consular officers at the embassy or consulate, and if the conditions permit, we may help U.S. citizens seeking to depart by working with the host government, other countries, and other U.S. government agencies to identify and in some cases arrange available transportation. Regardless of the method of transportation, or who provides it, U.S. citizens (and others who are eligible for U.S. government assistance) are generally responsible for reimbursing the government for the cost of their travel,” the page says.
The Washington Examiner reached out to the State Department for comment on the report about U.S. citizens being asked to pay for flights out of Afghanistan, but Politico reported a spokesperson for the agency did not deny this was the case when asked.
“U.S. law requires that evacuation assistance to private U.S. citizens or third-country nationals be provided ‘on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.’ The situation is extremely fluid, and we are working to overcome obstacles as they arise,” the representative said.
A White House official said on Wednesday evening the United States, which sent thousands of troops back to assist with the effort at the Kabul airport, has evacuated nearly 6,000 people since Saturday. President Joe Biden told ABC news on Wednesday that U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan until all U.S. citizens are evacuated, even if that means keeping them there past the Aug. 31 deadline for a complete withdrawal.